Wheels up and a fury of motion was the way you always picture Dick Landy coming off the starting line. And, of course, there was the ever present cigar he was chewing on extending from his helmet. It all started with the Dick Landy 1964 Dodge 330 factory lightweight. When Chrysler picked top racers from all over the country to work with just 55 426 Hemi powered super stock cars, Landy was one of the first to receive one.
On Thursday, May 21st 1964, V.I.N. 6142225635 was built at the factory. By the weekend of June 12th 1964, at Riverside International Raceway, Dick Landy won the Hot-Rod Magazine Championship Drags to give the production 426 Hemi engine it’s first sanctioned win! This is the car he drove, the Dick Landy 1964 Dodge.
By the fall of 1964 Landy used this car to experiment with altered wheelbases for match racing. He installed a straight front axle from a Dodge van and leaf springs, enhanced the front and rear wheel openings and moved the straight axle forward 6 inches and then moved the rear axle forward 8 inches. The result of this suspension tinkering produced a car that had great weight distribution but it was noted that it looked “funny” when viewed from the side. This was in 1964. By 1965 the name “Funny Car” was being used by track announcers to describe the altered wheelbase cars.
According to Mr. Hemi, Pete Haldiman, “some unknown individual observed that the radically altered wheelbase Mopar’s appeared somewhat silly-looking from the side view. The front wheels were almost touching the front bumper while the rear wheels were very close to the doors. This person used the phrase ‘funny car.’ ” Haldiman credits the Dick Landy 1964 Dodge 330 Lightweight as inspiring the name “funny car.” Arguably Landy was not the first to experiment with altered wheelbase cars, but it was the Dick Landy 1964 Dodge that inspired the name “funny car.” This old Dodge has been called the First Funny Car by many Mopar historians, including the National Hemi Owners Association in its “Hemi News” edition, April, 1989.
Dandy Dick was a bigger than life drag racing personality back in the day. But what won him respect from his peers was his gift for engine building and designing suspensions that put the power to the ground. He spent the 1950’s racing Fords in Southern California. But when Chrysler came out with the 413 wedge head V8’s he was hooked on Mopar. The Dick Landy 1964 Dodge factory lightweight with aluminum front end and a 426 Hemi motor is one of just 55 such cars produced for top level racers such as Landy. The 1965 Factory Altered Wheelbase cars or A/FX cars, are now going for up to $1 million at national auctions. But you could own this one at a great discount by buying it from its current owner. This is truly an important piece of drag racing history.
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